The vessel wall is thicker in hypertension. Folkow demonstrated that adaptive structural changes occur in vessels in response to the increased wall stress of hypertension. Because the vessel wall thickens and encroaches on the lumen, the adaptive change results in an elevated vascular resistance. It also exaggerates the vasoconstrictor effects of vascular smooth muscle contraction, thereby increasing vascular reactivity to physiologically occurring vasoactive agents. As solid as this information may be, important unanswered questions still remain related to the question "What makes the pressure go up in the first place?" In this brief review, we have examined possible culprits both in the area of extrinsic vascular regulatory systems and in that of intrinsic changes in the vascular smooth muscle cell. Interesting newly described vasoactive agents currently are being evaluated. On the other hand, generalized intrinsic abnormalities in the cell membrane are well documented in hypertension. Many individual transport systems display this abnormality, suggesting that the primary defect may be in the lipid bilayer that influences the function of all integral protein transport systems. Abnormalities also have been found in the cells' signal transduction systems, whereas the energy metabolism and contractile protein system are essentially normal. Functional abnormalities of the vascular smooth muscle cell in hypertension must explain both its increased contraction and its increased growth. It is likely that the same functional abnormality may explain both of these changes.
- Copyright © 1991 by American Heart Association